It’s completely normal for children of all ages (even the grown up ones!)to test boundaries and break the rules. However – where is the balance between allowing them to test the limits and keeping them safe?
Children break the rules for different reasons:
- To test your limits and see how far they can push you – this is about control and who has it – and who hasn’t.
- For attention – even if it is negative attention.
- Copying others to fit in and be part of a group.
- It is fun – it’s a way to assert their authority and gain more independence.
- They do not know the point of the rule – to them it is meaningless.
As soon as children learn that breaking the rules works – they get what they want – so they will keep repeating it. Children / preteens who are defiant at school and get sent out of class may behave this way to GET sent out of class. As soon as they know what buttons they need to press to get what they want – they will do it over and over. Then you end up in a vicious circle of telling them off, only to find they immediately repeat the same behaviour.
Rules and boundaries are vital to children and teenagers. They are there to keep them safe and offer boundaries that ensure they can learn positive life skills.
Here are a few tips to help manage the constant rule breaking at home and maybe offer some food for thought:
- Sit down and explain that the rule breaking is a big cause of arguments. Talk to your child about it – be open and curious – what are their reasons for breaking the rules? If they have the confidence to be open and honest about it, then make sure there are no negative consequences for their openness. It might be that they want your attention and that’s why they break the rules. This is simply about them wanting your time, so schedule in times when they will have your undivided attention and AGREE TOGETHER that this then stops the negative attention rule breaking. You’ll need to stick to the agreement too – otherwise, that in turn will illicit negative attention seeking.
- Look at what rules are being broken – are those rules fair, age appropriate and meaningful to your children?
- How many rules are there and what is their purpose?
- What rules are non-negotiable because they are there to keep them safe?
- Do the children know the purpose for and reasons behind the rules – sometimes they do not see the point of rules. If there are meaningless, then children will continually break them.
- What rules are no longer necessary?
- What independence do the rules encourage?
Two key questions are:
- What level of input do children have over rules and boundaries?
- What is your reaction to rule breaking – and how consistent is it?
- What are the consequences to rule breaking – who imposes them and how consistently are they applied?
If you find your child is breaking the rules and it’s causing trouble at home, please get in touch.